3:30 PM EST

Madeleine Bordallo, D-GU

Ms. BORDALLO. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the bill (H.R. 714) to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to lease certain lands in Virgin Islands National Park, and for other purposes.

The Clerk read the title of the bill.

The text of the bill is as follows:

H.R. 714

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. CANEEL BAY LEASE AUTHORIZATION.

(a) Definitions.--In this section:

(1) PARK.--The term ``Park'' means the Virgin Islands National Park.

(2) RESORT.--The term ``resort'' means the Caneel Bay resort on the island of St. John in the Park.

(3) RETAINED USE ESTATE.--The term ``retained use estate'' means the retained use estate for the Caneel Bay property on the island of St. John entered into between the Jackson Hole Preserve and the United States on September 30, 1983.

(4) SECRETARY.--The term ``Secretary'' means the Secretary of the Interior.

(b) Lease Authorization.--

(1) IN GENERAL.--If the Secretary determines that the long-term benefit to the Park would be greater by entering into a lease with the owner of the retained use estate than by authorizing a concession contract upon the termination of the retained use estate, the Secretary may enter into a lease for the operation and management of the resort.

(2) ACQUISITIONS.--The Secretary may--

(A) acquire associated property from the owner of the retained use estate; and

(B) on the acquisition of property under subparagraph (A), administer the property as part of the Park.

(3) AUTHORITY.--Except as otherwise provided by this section, a lease shall be in accordance with subsection (k) of section 3 of Public Law 91-383 (16 U.S.C. 1a-2(k)), notwithstanding paragraph (2) of that subsection.

(4) TERMS AND CONDITIONS.--A lease authorized under this section shall--

(A) be for the minimum number of years practicable, taking into consideration the need for the lessee to secure financing for necessary capital improvements to the resort, but in no event shall the term of the lease exceed 40 years;

(B) prohibit any transfer, assignment, or sale of the lease or otherwise convey or pledge any interest in the lease with prior written notification to, and approval by the Secretary;

(C) ensure that the general character of the resort property remains unchanged, including a prohibition against--

(i) any increase in the overall size of the resort; or

(ii) any increase in the number of guest accommodations available at the resort;

(D) prohibit the sale of partial ownership shares or timeshares in the resort; and

(E) include any other provisions determined by the Secretary to be necessary to protect the Park and the public interest.

(5) RENTAL AMOUNTS.--In determining the fair market value rental of the lease required under section 3(k)(4) of Public Law 91-383 (16 U.S.C. 1a-2(k)(4)), the Secretary shall take into consideration--

(A) the value of any associated property conveyed to the United States; and

(B) the value, if any, of the relinquished term of the retained use estate.

(6) USE OF PROCEEDS.--Rental amounts paid to the United States under a lease shall be available to the Secretary, without further appropriation, for visitor services and resource protection within the Park.

(7) CONGRESSIONAL NOTIFICATION.--The Secretary shall submit a proposed lease under this section to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of the Senate and the Committee on Natural Resources of the House of Representatives at least 60 days before the effective date of the lease.

(8) RENEWAL.--A lease entered into under this section may not be extended or renewed.

(9) TERMINATION.--Upon the termination of a lease entered into under this section, if the Secretary determines the continuation of commercial services at the resort to be appropriate, the services shall be provided in accordance with the National Park Service Concessions Management Improvement Act of 1998 (16 U.S.C. 5951 et seq.).

(c) Retained Use Estate.--

(1) IN GENERAL.--As a condition of the lease, the owner of the retained use estate shall terminate, extinguish, and relinquish to the Secretary all rights under the retained use estate and shall transfer, without consideration, ownership of improvements on the retained use estate to the National Park Service.

(2) APPRAISAL.--

(A) IN GENERAL.--The Secretary shall require an appraisal by an independent, qualified appraiser that is agreed to by the Secretary and the owner of the retained use estate to determine the value, if any, of the relinquished term of the retained use estate.

(B) REQUIREMENTS.--An appraisal under paragraph (1) shall be conducted in accordance with--

(i) the Uniform Appraisal Standards for Federal Land Acquisitions; and

(ii) the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice.

3:30 PM EST

Madeleine Bordallo, D-GU

Ms. BORDALLO. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days in which to revise and extend their remarks and to include extraneous material on the bill under consideration.

3:31 PM EST

Madeleine Bordallo, D-GU

Ms. BORDALLO. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend our distinguished colleague from the Virgin Islands, a valuable member of the Committee on Natural Resources, DONNA CHRISTENSEN, for sponsoring H.R. 714. This legislation would authorize the National Park Service to continue its successful relationship with Caneel Bay Resort, ensure that park resources are protected, and allow the resort to undertake needed maintenance and improvement programs that will benefit visitors to the Virgin Islands National

Park and the Caneel Bay Resort well into the future.

Mr. Speaker, this legislation was approved by the House in the previous Congress, but was not considered in the other body. It should be noted, however, that H.R. 714 includes some technical changes suggested by our colleagues in the Senate after hearings were conducted on the bill last year.

Congresswoman Christensen deserves our thanks for her work in ensuring that visitor services at the Virgin Islands National Park are available and that the park's stunning natural resources are always protected.

I urge my colleagues to support the passage of H.R. 714.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

3:31 PM EST

Madeleine Bordallo, D-GU

Ms. BORDALLO. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend our distinguished colleague from the Virgin Islands, a valuable member of the Committee on Natural Resources, DONNA CHRISTENSEN, for sponsoring H.R. 714. This legislation would authorize the National Park Service to continue its successful relationship with Caneel Bay Resort, ensure that park resources are protected, and allow the resort to undertake needed maintenance and improvement programs that will benefit visitors to the Virgin Islands National

Park and the Caneel Bay Resort well into the future.

Mr. Speaker, this legislation was approved by the House in the previous Congress, but was not considered in the other body. It should be noted, however, that H.R. 714 includes some technical changes suggested by our colleagues in the Senate after hearings were conducted on the bill last year.

Congresswoman Christensen deserves our thanks for her work in ensuring that visitor services at the Virgin Islands National Park are available and that the park's stunning natural resources are always protected.

I urge my colleagues to support the passage of H.R. 714.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

3:33 PM EST

Donna Christian-Green, D-VI

Mrs. CHRISTENSEN. Mr. Speaker, I thank Congresswoman Bordallo for those kind words and for yielding me time.

I rise, of course, in strong support of H.R. 714, legislation that I introduced to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to enter into a lease with the owners of Caneel Bay Resort in my congressional district. I want to begin by thanking Chairman Rahall, as well as Chairman Grijalva, for their strong and steadfast support of this bill. Chairman Grijalva actually traveled to my district to see for himself how important the resort is to the island and the people of

St. John and to meet with not only the management, but the employees, because it is important to the entire Virgin Islands.

Mr. Speaker, Caneel Bay traces its roots to Lawrence Rockefeller's coming to the Island of St. John in 1952. He purchased the then-existing resort facilities and also acquired more than 5,000 surrounding acres to protect the area. In 1956, he donated the additional land to create the Virgin Islands National Park. At the same time, he created Caneel Bay Resort, comprising 170 acres, which continues to complement and be environmentally consistent with the natural beauty of the park's setting.

Mr. Rockefeller subsequently decided to transfer the land underlying Caneel Bay to the National Park Service while retaining the improvements and continuing the Caneel Bay operations. He accomplished this through the execution of a series of unique agreements generally known as a retained use estate, or RUE. [Page: H1623]

The bill before us is necessary because the RUE is slated to expire in 2023 and its current owners require more than the remaining 15 years to provide the capital and long-term financing necessary to reverse the decline of the facilities over the years and to return it to the grandeur and stature that it deserves. It has been impossible for them to get that financing with just 15 years remaining in the RUE.

Mr. Speaker, I have spent the last 4 years meeting with the National Park Service officials, representatives of the Rockefeller group, and various public officials and business partners to work out an equitable framework for the long-term lease with the National Park Service which will ensure the viability of the Caneel Bay Resort, the largest employer on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In return for a long-term lease needed to ensure the infusion of capital funds, the owners have agreed to pay consideration to the government based on independent appraisals commissioned by the parties, which will include valuable land and buildings held by them outside the park but which are necessary for resort operations. No consideration is currently being paid to the government under the existing retained use estate which expires in 2023.

Mr. Speaker, Caneel Bay, along with virtually every business in the Virgin Islands, and I would say across the country, has suffered a dramatic decline in revenue and, in our case, future bookings. The company is being forced to make some very difficult decisions in an attempt to preserve its solvency so that it may survive this economic downturn. They are currently reducing employees' hours, have been forced to eliminate some positions and are laying off employees. They are making every effort

to minimize losses due to the deepening economic recession as well as alleviate the impact on our long-term employees who are also struggling in this economic environment.

The bill was supported by the administration at hearings both in the House and Senate as the best means of conclusively addressing this issue.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Natural Resources staff director, Jim Zoia, and the staff of the National Parks, Forest and Public Lands Subcommittee, in particular former staff director Rick Healy and current staff director Dave Watkins, for their hard work in making it possible for H.R. 714 to be on the floor today. I also want to thank the full committee ranking member, DOC HASTINGS, and subcommittee ranking member, ROB BISHOP, and their staffs for their support

as well.

I urge my colleagues to support the passage of this bill, which is very important to the economy of my district and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Mr. BISHOP Of Utah. Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

3:37 PM EST

Madeleine Bordallo, D-GU

Ms. BORDALLO. Mr. Speaker, I have no additional requests for time and would inquire of the minority whether they have any additional speakers.